Trumpet Wom'

Music royalties are hands down the highest point of contention within the music industry. It’s a never ending battle as the way music is consumed evolves faster than law making. Add the fact that most musician’s aren’t lawyers and it becomes a feeding frenzy with people that “just want to help” vying to get a cut of a musician’s payday. Moving beyond the discussion of ethics and morals regarding collecting royalties and who gets what, the actual process of collecting the royalties is complicated.

If you haven’t experienced the joy that is learning how music royalties work here’s a basic watered down explanation. There are 4 types of royalties: mechanical, public performance, synchronization and print music. Then on top of that there is a split between the songwriter and the publisher. I won’t hurt your brain explaining what that all means any further, there’s plenty of literature available on the internet about it if you’re interested.

So that part is already complicated and an on going debate regarding who gets what. But there is more fun to be had because after the what there is the how do I get my money. You see, we musicians just can’t hit up Spotify or Pandora and be like “Give me my money please.”, no we have to go through organizations that get the money from them and give it to us (for a small fee of course!). But wait, it gets more fun because different organizations collect different types of royalties. You have to go to one place to get your mechanical, another place to get your public performance and another place to get your synchronization and print royalties (print royalties don’t apply for the average indie musician however). I should also add that it’s very hard to collect your own mechanical royalties as an independent musician and most are leaving this money on the table.

Now recently companies such as CD Baby have started programs to collect all of these royalties for you in one place, but the debate becomes is it worth giving these companies more of your money to collect your money. So why the complication? Besides the aforementioned reason of the speed of evolution of music consumption versus laws (as new types of royalties came in to existence, new organizations came into existence to collect) the biggest reason as I see it is so people can take money from musicians for doing practically nothing!

Disclaimer because I mentioned them, this isn’t a rant against CD Baby, I love them, but just the entire industry as a whole. It is comprised of a bunch of corporations who see how much money there is to be gotten off of musicians. I would happily put the work into collecting all of my royalties and cut out all the middle men who do, in my opinion, not very much, but take very much. Whether you’re signed to a label or independent, the amount of hands in your pocket that aren’t involved in creating the music is insane. With the label there is an argument of recouping costs, but history has shown that they continue to screw musicians over well after money has been recouped.

I fail to see the value in all of these middle men, of course the middle men all say they are necessary, but I don’t see why, I know how to ask for my money just fine without them. I have yet to hear a convincing (or anything of substance for that matter) argument as to why these middle men and complications are needed, I’m calling BS on all of it. I think we need to take the power back. So truly, legitimately, what do we musicians have to do to cut these guys out? I would love to do it myself or AM down to create a MUSICIANS ONLY organization where we collect our own royalties if need to be.

That’s me though, what are your thoughts musicians and music lovers?

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